Atari User

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

Author: Bob Chappell
Publisher: Cascade
Machine: Atari 400/800/600XL/800XL/130XE

Published in Atari User #30

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

In contrast to the impressive packaging artwork, this game turns out to be very dull indeed. The idea behind it is good, if not entirely original, but sadly the implementation is lacklustre.

What we have here is basically a trading game combined with some elements of arcade action, luck and strategy.

You are captain of the US trading frigate American Star which has been raided by the notorious Bloodthroat the pirate.

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

(Rule one of pirate tales is always to give the villain a brutish name - it would never do to have the wicked pirate called Primrose or Buttercup, for example.)

Bloodthroat has your daughter and is demanding a huge ransom, to be paid within thirty days or else. You must sail the Barbary Coast, trading and fighting, in order to raise the necessary readies.

The game sets sail with a beeping, nautical tune and switches to the main screen, a map of the Barbary Coast. Moving a rather stiff and sluggish pointer, you place it on one of the several destinations you wish to sail to.

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

The disc drive then whirrs away for a not inconsiderable period and eventually the next scene appears, a view from behind one of the cannons on your ship at sea.

There are a number of cannons and you can move along the deck - the picture simply slides to the left or right to reveal an identical scene. A pirate ship may come sailing slowly past and you can engage it in battle or not.

Cannons are your only weapon and must first be loaded before they can be fired. All or any of the cannons can be loaded in one operation, and while the procedure attempts to be technically realistic, I suppose, it is also a tedious and frustrating business.

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

It goes like this: Select load, select the numbers of the cannons to be loaded, move to any working cannon, point at powder, point at cannon, point at push rod, point at cannon, point at cannon ball, point at cannon, point at brush and finally (yawn) point at cannon again. Get any of this wrong and you must start all over again.

One of the pains of the cannon loading sequence is that having loaded every blooming one while at sea, someone unloads them again whenever you dock, so you have to go through the whole rigmarole every time you sail.

To fire any loaded cannon, you point at the fuse whereupon it will start to burn down. The ball will then be ejected with a feeble explosion ("Stap me, bos'n, they be firing at us with cap guns and tennis ball!").

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

The elevation of the gun can be altered and is necessary because the pirate ships sail past at different distances.

If you hit an enemy ship hard and long enough, you may board here and either claim the booty or read her log, but not both. Stirring stuff, eh?

Hits on your ship are shown by any number of your cannons going up in flames and thereafter becoming inoperable.

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

When you reach a destination, the disc again whirrs and finally you will be told if there is anything at your chosen spot.

If there's nothing, the message "Captain, there be nothing here. Wish ye to set sail?" appears with the rather pointless single-choice answer "Aye".

In other words, there's no option but to sail to somewhere else. Long disc whirr and it's map time again. Dullsville.

Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

If there is something there, you are shown a treasure map and must pick one of several croses. With luck, you may find treasure, otherwise, it's sailing time once more. By now, your adrenalin and grey matter will have decided they won't be needed on this voyage and have gone down to the pub. You may be tempted to join them, for there's not much more to this game.

Should you land at a port on the coast you are given an opportunity, in a very simplistic way, to buy or sell food and goods, hire men, acquire cannonballs, make repairs and bribe the port officer (in return for a hint).

And really there is very little more to it than that. The game plays exceedingly slowly and it unredeemed by graphics (they are not bad but there are so few scenes), sound (crude) or content.

I don't enjoy having to put down a game by a new company, but I am afraid Cascade Games is going to have to do much better than this if it is to succeed.

Bob Chappell

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